They brushed them aside in what was hardly a battle at all
The Crusaders got their season going with a convincing 41-19 bonus-point victory over the Bulls in Christchurch on Saturday.
The Crusaders are back. They are back and again marching on Jerusalem. En route they have routed the Bulls. In fact they brushed them aside in what was hardly a battle at all.
The Crusaders were better in the scrums and better in the line-outs. They won the turnovers hands down and left the flat Bulls with only scraps to dither with. If anything the final score - 41-19, six tries to one - flattered the Bulls.
There is a famous telegram from Paul Roos to the 1937 Springboks before the third Test in which he urged them to take scrums instead of line-outs, as was the law then and the Springboks were so much better at scrumming.
On this Saturday evening in Christchurch the Bulls - four times - chose line-outs ahead of scrums. Apart from the way their scrum creaked and groaned, they were penalised three times in scrums in a match of not many penalties.
It was the Crusaders' first home match after two losses and they were determined. They started off suffering from handling errors. They brushed aside the errors and kept on playing as if they had not happened and their error-in-chief Robbie Fruean came good as a result. And Crusader confidence grew and the big crowd enjoyed them, their support rising.
The Bulls offered little. Having out-of-position players on the wings did not help at all. In particular Jürgen Visser was left lost and wondering, especially on defence. On the other hand back-in-position Israel Dagg was here, there and everywhere and brilliant.
Wynand Olivier tackled Dagg and was penalised for not clearing out of the tackle and Daniel Carter goaled. 3-0 after 6 minutes.
Eventually the Bulls managed to get into the Crusaders' half. They threw deep to Deon Stegmann at the back of the line-out. He made ground till Andy Ellis tackled him. Ellis did not clear out of the tackle and was penalised. 3-3 after 20 minutes. But this was not the dawning of the Bulls as the Crusaders took over.
They tapped a free kick at a scrum and bashed till they went wide right and an easy run-in for Fruean. 10-3 after 25 minutes.
From a line-out the Crusaders bashed, Fruean ran strongly and eventually Kieran Read got over from close quarters. 15-3 after 31 minutes,
When first Read and then Corey Flynn were penalised, Steyn lifted Bulls' hopes to 15-9 but just before half-time the Crusaders went through 17 phases before Johnny McNicholl was free on the left wing and swept round for the try. 22-9 at half-time was a comfortable lead.
George Whitelock was penalised at a tackle and Steyn goaled again. 22-12 after 42 minutes. And then came the try of the night.
The Bulls had the ball. Olivier was tackled and lost the ball forward. (He was so injured in the tackle that he had to be helped off the field.) The Crusaders went left and then they came back to the right. Tom Marshall ran around the outside of Juandré Kruger and then swept inside Morné Steyn for a try at the posts after a run of over 40 metres. 29-12 after 46 minutes.
The Crusaders won a turnover off Werner Kruger and Marshall went on a long, slashing run. They bashed and then went wide right where Wyatt Crockett scored. 34-12.
A penalty gave the Bulls an attacking line-out. For the first time in the match they got their maul working and Chiliboy Ralepelle helped Stegmann over for the Bulls' only try, not one that produced much joy for them. 34-19 after 68 minutes.
From the kick-off Jacques Potgieter lost the ball in a simple tackle and the Crusaders attacked again. But the Bulls won the ball and three times kicked when tries were their only hope of any honour and a bonus point.
Arno Botha lost the ball in a tackle and Tom Donnelly was just out at the corner. Two penalties became five-metre scrums for the Crusaders and they attacked till scrumhalf Willi Heinz scored. 41-19.
Man of the Match: Any number of Crusaders, including our choice of Tom Marshall for his electric try and other strong running, head up and confident.
For the Crusaders:
Tries: Fruean, Read, McNicholl, Marshall, Crockett, Heinz
Con: Carter 4
For the Bulls:
Pens: Steyn 4
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Samuel Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tyler Bleyendaal, 22 Adam Whitelock.
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Jurgen Visser, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Morné Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Jacques Potgieter, 20 Francois Hougaard, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 Jan Serfontein.
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)